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This information was reviewed and approved by Russell P. Bowler, MD, PhD, Irina Petrache, MD (3/1/2021).

An exercise program is another very important step in managing COPD. It is common for people with lung disease to limit physical activities because they are afraid of becoming short of breath.

But regular exercise can improve your heart, lungs and muscles, and it can help you breathe easier and feel better. Many people with COPD enjoy walking, water aerobics and riding a stationary bike. Think of a lifelong activity you enjoy. With an activity that you are familiar with and already enjoy participating in, regular exercises for COPD rehabilitation will be that much easier.



Medication to Help You Exercise

People with COPD often use inhaled short acting bronchodilators before exercise to decrease shortness of breath. Some people with COPD need oxygen therapy while exercising. Portable oxygen units are available. Talk with your health care provider about recommending a pulmonary rehab exercise program for you and what medications or devices will make it possible and easier to tolerate.


Getting Started

Before starting an exercise program for COPD rehabilitation, always talk to your doctor about your plan to be sure that it is safe. Then, start with slow, small steps rather than attempting a quick "lifestyle overhaul." Changing lifelong patterns is a gradual process. Succeeding in many little steps can be encouraging, where failing at a quick major change is definitely discouraging.


Exercise Tips

  • While exercising, remember to inhale (breathe in) before starting the exercise. 
  • Exhale (breathe out) through the most difficult part of the exercise. 
  • Purse your lips while breathing. 
  • Don't hold your breath while exercising. 
  • Count out loud as you do the exercises.

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